WJEC exam body launches results review for GCSE English

Boy sitting an exam
Image caption The WJEC says it will make extra exam resources available to teachers before the summer tests are taken

The Welsh exams board WJEC has launched an internal review after concerns were raised over results for a new GCSE in English taken in January.

Heads at secondary schools across Wales said pupils had received "unexpectedly low" grades for the exam units.

The Welsh government has said it wanted officials to investigate the issue as a matter of urgency.

The WJEC will also give more support to schools ahead of the June GCSEs.

The examining body has published an open letter after students were given their results for the new exam units last week.

Teaching unions described the grades as "far below what was expected".

"WJEC understands the frustration and disappointment for many pupils following Thursday's GCSE results for English language," said the WJEC letter, signed by chief executive, Gareth Pierce.

"Many pupils, parents and teachers have expressed concerns regarding the outcomes, and through this letter we aim to clarify our intended courses of action.

"As an awarding organisation, it is our responsibility to ensure that candidates receive the grade their work deserves.

"In order to reassure centres, we have initiated an internal review of marking."

The outcome of that review is expected to be made public before the end of next week.

Extra help

Exam officials have stressed that tougher requirements on accuracy in the new exam, and a much higher number of students taking the papers could explain lower grades.

The units were part of the first Wales-only GCSE examinations, ordered after a split between Northern Ireland, England and Wales in 2012.

As well as the internal review into marking, the exam board said schools and exam centres could still challenge individual results, using the traditional appeal route.

WJEC officials also said they would be making more support available to schools preparing for the next round of exams in June.

Measures include:

  • Post-exam review meetings at the end of March and in April, with heads of all English departments invited to a session
  • Extra specimen assessment material to be made available, with marking schemes
  • Additional feedback on two questions that students found most difficult in the January exam unit

"We acknowledge the widespread disappointment in grades and, as part of our contribution to moving the situation forward, we will put in place the measures outlined above as swiftly as possible," added Mr Pierce.

The WJEC letter came as the education minister told assembly members that his investigation into the GCSE grades will be based on evidence and not "reckless speculation".

"I won't jump to any conclusions," insisted Huw Lewis.

"The rapid fact-finding exercise I have ordered will get to the bottom of just how this has happened and what we and the WJEC can do to support learners and centres both for this summer and beyond.

"What must not happen is reckless speculation and point scoring when the future of young people is at stake."

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